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The BBC's Bill Hayton
"Things might be about to become murkier still"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 8 November, 2000, 16:44 GMT
Lockerbie request goes to Syria
The request will be dealt with in Damascus
A formal request has been sent to Syria for a document which could affect the trial of two Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing.

The Scottish Court in the Netherlands has made the request after a series of delays caused by the release of new evidence.

The information is understood to refer to the manufacture of the bomb which brought down Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 with the loss of 270 lives.

It is also believed to be linked to how the device got on board the aircraft.

The court also heard inquiries were continuing in Sweden into the new evidence, which was given to the prosecution last month.

The inquries mean there will be a further delay in calling a witness, Palestinian Mohammed Abu Talb, who is serving a jail sentence for terrorism offences.

Trial details
The two accused are Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 48, and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44
Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988, killing all 259 people on board and another 11 on the ground
The two men deny three charges - murder, conspiracy to murder and a breach of the 1982 Aviation Security Act
The trial is taking place in a Scottish courtroom at Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands
The case is being heard by a panel of Scottish judges
Earlier this week Talb was brought to the court from his jail cell in Stockholm, where he is serving life for the 1989 bombing of an airline office in Copenhagen.

He was once a prime suspect in the Lockerbie case, but is now due to give evidence for the prosecution.

The presiding judge, Lord Sutherland, said: "As a result of discussions in chambers, it has been decided that a letter of request would be issued for recovery of a document believed to be in Syria."

This could take several days, and meanwhile, remaining prosecution witnesses, apart from Talb, were due to be heard on Wednesday afternoon.

Three suitcases

Former Detective Superintendent George Brown said he had tried to interview Talb in 1989. He started to swear, said Mr Brown, and was extremely aggressive and bitter, spitting in the face of an FBI agent.

The court was told that an Air Malta employee carried three suitcases on board a flight to Frankfurt on the day of the bombing.

One was for him, the second for his girlfriend, and the third was being carried as a favour to a friend who worked for Air Malta in Frankfurt.

Luqa Airport
The cases were flown from Malta
In a statement read out to the court, cargo manager Saviour Mallia: "I had collected the suitcase from my colleague's father's house.

"It contained clothes. I did not verify this fact. It was handed to me locked, with the keys, but I did not open it."

Mr Mallia said that at Frankfurt he delivered the suitcase to his colleague, or to another Air Malta colleague, also based in Frankfurt. He and his girlfriend continued on their journey to Portugal.

He admitted in the statement, taken in Malta this year after he refused to attend the trial, that he had omitted to mention the third suitcase when originally interviewed in 1989.

The trial has already heard that the Lockerbie bomb, a radio cassette player packed with Semtex explosive, was packed in a suitcase padded with clothing bought in a shop in Malta.

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See also:

07 Nov 00 | Middle East
Closed meeting at Lockerbie trial
23 Oct 00 | World
Six quizzed over Lockerbie
09 Oct 00 | World
Lockerbie trial postponed again
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